PHYS 4421

Exotic and everyday Phenomena in the Macroscopic World

INSTRUCTOR: Predrag Cvitanović
TIME: Spring semester 2004, Tue, Thu 12:05-1:25 in Howey S104
TEACHING METHOD: Two lectures per week, homework sets, midterm and a final exam.
START: Thu, Jan 8 2004 12:05 in Howey S104


Continuum physics describes the macroscopic physical world around us, continuous and classical. The enormous progress of quantum physics in 20th century has almost eliminated this kind of physics from the core physics curriculum - still the modern developments in nonlinear science, geophysics, astrophysics, engineering, biology demand increased mastery of its methodology. At the same time, new applications (biological fluids, plasmas, solid state physics, field theory) bring new perspectives into the subject, revealing the same fundamental principles underlying aspects of very diverse materials we deal with in the macroscopic world.

The goal of the course is to redress the balance, and offer a modern, unified introduction to the basic concepts and phenomenology of continuous systems.

The course is intended for physics, biomedical, math, engineering and geophysics advanced undergraduates and starting graduate students. The mathematical prerequisites are modest and are developed further as the need arises. The course presupposes a knowledge of Newtonian mechanics and differential equations, with the equations of continuum mechanics derived from Newtonian particle mechanics. The basic concept is the concept of stress, valid for all continuous materials. The course proceeds along the two tracks, the two extremes in the world of continua: elastic solids (Hooke) and viscous (Newtonian) fluids. Emphasis is placed equally on intuition and formalism with the many examples from geophysics, astrophysics and other fields.

TEXT: B. Lautrup
Continuum Physics, Exotic and everyday Phenomena in the Macroscopic World

This textbook (to be published in 2004 by the Institute of Physics) is a modern advanced undergraduate introduction into the subject. The author has kindly agreed to make the current version available to the students in this course. Have a glance at the few sample chapters that give the flavor of the content and the style:

Chapter 5: Buoyancy
Chapter 21: Whirls and vortices

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Predrag.Cvitanovic at -- last revised Oct 14 2003